Plant a Row brings in more than 1,000 pounds of donated food during the 2018 harvest

Courtesy photo – Kelly Hines Keller’s front porch is filled with donated produce for Berthoud’s Plant a Row for the Hungry on Oct. 2 during the week the volunteer group broke the 1,000-pound mark. Gizmo, Hines Keller’s 5-year-old Labrador Retriever/Australian Shepherd mix rescue, is on squirrel duty to protect the food.

By Shelley Widhalm

The Surveyor

Kelly Hines Keller’s front porch helped carry the weight of 1,025 pounds of food during the 2018 harvest, representing the bounty of gardens in the Berthoud community.

Hines Keller invited community members to drop off their fruits, vegetables and herbs for Berthoud’s Plant a Row for the Hungry program that she then delivered to House of Neighborly Service’s Berthoud Life Center. The life center, housed in Grace Place Church, offered the food to its low-income clients in addition to their monthly food baskets.

“It’s amazing what gardeners in our community are doing,” Hines Keller said.
“It’s just a very satisfying thing to know it’s going to a good use. It’s going to contribute to the family table on any given day.”

Plant a Row for the Hungry is a nationwide, grassroots effort of backyard and community gardeners to donate a portion or the surplus of their produce to a local food bank. Berthoud’s Plant a Row is an affiliate of that effort and is part of Berthoud Local, a nonprofit that supports agriculture in the Berthoud area and hosts a summer farmers’ market at Fickel Park.

Hines Keller, coordinator of Berthoud’s Plant a Row, invites gardeners to drop off their produce every Monday through Tuesday morning in one to three coolers she leaves on her front porch. She delivers the food on Tuesdays to the food bank at the Berthoud Life Center that serves about 45 families and 80 individuals. This year she made the deliveries from June to October and picked up food, too, when needed.

“I wanted to make it easy and have a centralized location,” Hines Keller said. “I’m the communication hub and donation and delivery hub. All the dirt and work and sweat and being prolific in the garden is coming from everyone else.”

The deliveries presented a “huge blessing” to Berthoud Life Center’s clients by giving them access to fresh foods, said Jinger Tomassi, manager of the life center.

“It adds nutritional value to what we’re able to offer our clients as well,” Tomassi said. “Being able to, during the summer months, offer fresh fruits and vegetables for them is wonderful. We really appreciate the partnership with them where they bring leftovers in abundance to us, and we make use of it and our clients are appreciative.”

Hines Keller started Berthoud’s Plant a Row in 2012 when she and other gardeners who want to consciously and organically grow their own food had a surplus. She gave some of her surplus to family and friends, but then they said they didn’t need any more, and she didn’t want to see the food go to waste. She researched organizations and came across Plant a Row, a nonprofit that didn’t have startup costs.

The Community Garden at Pioneer Park, hosted by Berthoud Local, launched the same year with a similar mission to that of Plant a Row, Hines Keller said. The garden is open to the community, and community garden volunteers meet there on Mondays for maintenance and harvesting and donate produce to Berthoud’s Plant a Row, representing a third of the total donations, she said. A pool of 10 to 12 gardeners from the community also donate from their own gardens, or what they harvest from community-share gardens.

Last year the gardeners donated 860 pounds of food. In the first year they donated 153 pounds, followed by 390 pounds the next year. The total for all seven years is 4,450 pounds.

“There should be access to healthy homegrown food for everyone,” Hines Keller said. “The whole idea is to supplement the options of the food bank with fresh options. It doesn’t count toward their allotment. It’s extra. It’s icing on the cake.”

Plant a Row estimates every pound of food donated supplements four meals.

“Literally, people drop off a handful,” Hines Keller said. “It doesn’t have to be much. When it adds up, it’s a wonderful effort.”

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